The Serving Overseer of Latter Rain Assembly and now known as Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC), Pastor Tunde Bakare, has cautioned those calling for stricter regulations of social media to desist from such, warning that any political group that takes the social media savvy Nigerian youth for granted does so at its own risk or peril.
Bakare gave this warning on Sunday, while delivering an address on the State of the Nigerian Youth at the church auditorium, themed: ‘The Youth of A Nation are the Trustees of Posterity- (Benjamin Disraeli).’
The occasion was to mark his 66th birthday and that of his wife, who clocked 60th.
Bakare, also the convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), who spoke on the heels of attempts by the government to regulate the use of social media aftermath of #EndSARS protest, contended that the fact that some persons had deployed the social media tool in ways that had been less than honourable does not justify the attempted clampdown on freedom of speech by some legislators who, he said “major in minors.”
This was just as the cleric frowned at such recent policy actions, including the freezing of the accounts of young Nigerians who reportedly sponsored the protests, targeting and arresting citizens on trumped-up charges, deploying court probes as a tool of intimidation, among others, describing them as deeply worrisome signs of regression, calling for the immediate reversal of these actions in order to calm raw nerves and fast track peace in the land.
“To extend the olive branch to the youth in one breath, and to deprive the youth of the right to freedom of movement and property as enshrined in our constitution in another breath, will send confusing signals to them and cast doubts in their minds regarding the sincerity of the government.
“The immediate reversal of these actions, therefore, will calm raw nerves and fast track peace in our land,” he said.
Bakare, while giving the warning, said the Nigerian youth with the power of social media remained the ninth power bloc that must not be taken for granted, advising strongly the power blocs in the country, including the South-West governors who were calling for stricter regulation of social media, to desist from doing so.
According to him, eight other political power blocs in the country that take precedence from Nigerian youth with the power of social media are: The Council of State and the 36 state governors, retired Generals, Traditional Institutions, Political Dynasties, The Private Sector (including the media), Religious Leaders, the Nigerian Labour Congress/Trade Union Congress (NLC/TUC), and Foreign Partners, saying that his position had always been that any individual or group that sought to be reckoned with politically in Nigeria must not take any of these for granted.
The cleric, who recalled that he had once been a victim of social media abuse, said what ought to be done to combat the abuse was to provide incentives for the proper usage of this tool through reward systems that would encourage the honour code, promote responsible conversations, and discourage dishonourable use.
He argued that the young Nigerians who had found their voices on social media were not the enemies of the country, describing them as “the hope of our nation,” who he said were “simply expressing the character of our DNA and the virtues that gave us independence.”
He listed other virtues to include the audacity to assemble as communities, including online communities, and to voice their opposition to corruption and oppression, noting that were social media to have been invented in the days of the country’s founding fathers, the Nigerian youth would have deployed the tool in resisting colonial rule and fighting for the nation’s independence, just as they effectively deployed conventional media such as newspapers to achieve these objectives.
“I, therefore, state without equivocation that these young Nigerians who have found their voices on social media are not the enemies of Nigeria. They are the hope of our nation.
“They are simply expressing the character of our DNA and the virtues that gave us independence- virtues such as the audacity to assemble as communities, including online communities, and to voice their opposition to corruption and oppression.
“I assure you that if social media had been invented in the days of our founding fathers, they would have deployed the tool in resisting colonial rule and fighting for our independence, just as they effectively deployed conventional media such as newspapers to achieve these objectives,” Pastor Bakare said.
“I made this point earlier in the year and I reiterate this position. Every medium, from radio to television, to Twitter and WhatsApp, can potentially be abused in amplifying our basest instincts, but this in no way implies that these outlets should be repressed or clamped down on.
“I would never align myself with the violation of freedoms, including the freedom of speech. Progressive governments the world over continue to grapple with how to maintain a fine balance between upholding freedom of speech and curtailing the spread of misinformation, which can have dire consequences.
“I note, for instance, the creation of the ‘EndSARS Fact Check’ handle on Twitter intended to checkmate the spread of fake news. A possible way to address this holistically- and I am open to other suggestions- is for the youth of Nigeria, with their track record of self-governance during the #EndSARS protests, to spearhead conversations in conjunction with local and international civil society organisations, with a view to adopting best practices elsewhere and innovating in the light of local realities, and ultimately working with such media platforms as Facebook and Twitter to flag dangerous content.
“This could minimise the concerns around government regulation or repression and places the power and responsibility squarely in the hands of the vast majority of end-users, the Nigerian youth.
“The existence of this ‘honour code,’ which I alluded to in January of this year, may effectively foreclose the need for bills that infringe on freedoms and thus understandably generate suspicion and concern,” he counselled.
Bakare further called on Nigerian youths to begin to channel their enormous energy into an organised movement for a New Nigeria, saying they should employ every resource at their disposal, and especially social media to achieve such dream.
The SNG convener recalled that he had six years ago, on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, while articulating the Nigeria of his dreams, predicted then that the Nigerian dream “lives on in the hand-held devices of young Nigerians on social media who keep on the front burner of public consciousness those issues that affect the Nigerian people in the hope that one day a movement for positive change will be ignited.”
According to him, that day has come, urging all young leaders from across the length and breadth of the country to join hands with the progressive forces in order to build a New Nigeria where it is everyone’s destiny and birthright to breathe to life.
“Dear youth of our nation, I announce to you that that day has come. I, therefore, urge all our young leaders from across the length and breadth of our nation, North, South, East and West, to join hands with the progressive forces in our polity for a New Nigeria, the dream nation that it is your destiny and birthright to breathe to life,” he said.
“I described the possibilities in my last State of the Nation broadcast: A Nigeria where the right to life is sacred and no one is brutalised or extrajudicially murdered; where no one goes to bed hungry and no child is left without access to quality education; where our homes, schools, streets, villages, highways and cities are safe and secure, and Nigerians can work, play or travel with their minds at rest, and go to bed with their hearts at peace; a Nigeria where our hospitals are life-saving institutions and every Nigerian has access to quality healthcare; where no youth is unemployed and our young men and women are job creators; where businesses thrive on innovation and made-in-Nigeria goods can compete anywhere in the world; where homes and businesses have access to uninterrupted power supply, and ideas are facilitated by functional infrastructure and cutting-edge technology; where no part of our nation- North, South, East or West- has a reason to feel marginalised, and where every Nigerian is proud to say, ‘I am a Nigerian;’ a Nigeria that is a model for Africa and a beacon of hope to the world,” he recalled.
“I believe that now is the time to build this dream nation, and that one of the first steps towards this is the wholesale acknowledgement of every level of government that suffocating the spirit, creativity and liberty of Nigerian youth is both counterintuitive and counterproductive,” he admonished.